You know when you just hate music? You don’t want to be introduced to anything by anyone you know in meatspace, everyone on the internet is a moron or selling something, and you can’t default to old standbys because you’re bored of trying to wring one last glimmer of the feels from them. How can you not hate it, the tenacity, the gall of it all? Millions of people are hungry or oppressed or desperate and you want me to pay you $25 to see you sing? Who the hell are you? Donald Trump is about to be president and you’re trying to pawn off some T-shirts you silkscreened in your dad’s shed? Fuck that, you know what, fuck music, I quit this job.
And then! GHASTLY MENACE.
Psych-pop outfit Ghastly Menace has been bumbling around Chicago for about six years now, and to quote the Google slug from the Chicago Tribune, “Ghastly Menace is becoming something.” Their backstory is familiar to anyone who knows somebody in a local band. Two close friends play in various bands together, join up to write an EP together, move on to other bands for a while, never really trying to “make it” though never exactly not, until finally they’re mature and jaded enough to make a real go of their dream.
First, the EP. Like any first release, Pitcairn displays the raw experimental spirit of Andy Schroeder and Chris Geick’s collaboration with less of the pop that would show up in their LP five years later. Which isn’t to say that there is need of accessibility. Running deep through every song is an abiding belief that James Mercer doesn’t get enough credit for his influence on modern indie/alt music. Which is crazy, but in their indignation they wisely followed Picasso’s advice and stole rather than imitated. That is to say, they appropriated what works instead of trying to recreate it. It’s a fuzzy, bouncy romp, really the perfect appetizer for their full-length. It was almost as if Spotify knew I would come in search of more. And I was not disappointed.
I’ve been listening to Songs Of Ghastly Menace pretty much non-stop since I discovered the album in early December, after I’d grown weary of Christmas music and didn’t feel like I could endure my usual snow dance of The Glow Pt. 2 and Fleet Foxes just yet. I’ve taken intentional breaks so as not to blow my wad because I could very easily overdose and never be able to listen to it again. It’s sort of like when you’re fed up with being single but you haven’t met anyone you liked in what feels like years and then one day someone strikes up a conversation with you in line at Starbucks and it leads to a drink and then later that night you think, “Whoa, can my neighbors hear us?” and you laugh internally because you realize it’s been so long since you’ve had to worry about it that you forgot the answer is yes, everyone can, and so even though the next morning you go at it once more and you’re still cracking jokes before she has to go, you wait a couple days to call her because not playing it cool is how you’ve ruined these things in the past.
Stepping back from that extended metaphor, the experimentation of Pitcairn is still there, but the five years between EP and LP saw the addition of four more members from their respected Chicago contemporaries and a professional attitude towards their music that accepts the idea that anything you do for a living–even and especially art–is not fun 99% of the time. The improvements are audible, turning good to great and sliding their sound into that sweet spot of familiarly distinctive. The songs flow together in emotional harmony, turning it up and down the necessary notches to give you sublime breathers in between toe-tappers and head-bangers. The whole album is a cogent piece, like a great short story collection or Season 5 of the Simpsons.
When listening, for some reason I feel something pleasant to which I can ascribe no memory but which is instantly and anciently familiar. I remember it from college, when I finally met people who listened to music I wanted to listen to and talked about things I wanted to talk about. Nothing that they introduced me to sounds like Ghastly Menace, but I recognize bits and pieces here and there. There are influences I can’t even place, that I’m digging deep into my brain stem for memories of. Mineral? Phoenix? The Promise Ring? Modest Mouse? It’s all there, but strategically scattered like precious gems in a giant mosaic.
Ghastly Menace is currently hard at work on their second full-length due out later this year. Evidently, the songs are due to be a bit more “stripped-down” than the first batch. Interesting, considering that they are collaborating together more than relying on Schroeder to compose if not the whole songs, then their lyrics and skeletons. I am torn, as all new and expectant fans are, between my desire for more of *this* and my anticipation for something potentially even better or more groundbreaking. I have a good feeling, though.
So, for the time being, I love music again. That is, until I find myself in the Discover section again.
For fans of: The Shins, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Grizzly Bear
Related: 5 Times TV Characters Went Punk
Article by John Michael.